This is my life. Sometimes shown through the eye of my camera phone, and sometimes not. I'll talk running, gadgets, music, and whatever else I stumble on to

Thursday, October 30, 2008

These days of easy going

I'm coming up on three weeks since the marathon and I'm still taking it easy. I haven't clocked any big mileage since then. My longest run has been an 8 miler last weekend, but otherwise I'm still in recovery mode.

I'm still experiencing the odd pain here and there. It's suggested you take up to a month to ease back into running full on. Last week I strained a couple of muscles in my back during my morning stretches, and it really had me worried as it hurt pretty bad. Fortunately, I was able to heal up after a day or two. Then, after my eight miles on Saturday, I ended up with a sore groin for a few days after which I'm still taking care of. Long story short, I don't think my body is quite ready for heavy workouts just yet.

I'm still staying on schedule with my runs, but the intensity has definitely decreased. I had the most incredible, easy four mile run on Chicago's lakefront on Wednesday with my CES group. The Chicago skyline at night is absolutely breathtaking from that angle. It was already dark by the time we started, but the cool night air really cleared my head. There's nothing like it.

Saturday I'll do six miles with the group. I figure I should be able to be back on track with my workouts after next week. Still, I feel great and have been enjoying my time off of heavy running.

I need it!

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

My first group run

I think I'm going to like this.

I had my first group run with the Chicago Endurance Sports winter training program on Saturday and really enjoyed it.

I was surprised with how organized everything was- especially with a full roster of 500 runners! We met up at Fleet Feet Sports' Piper's Alley location on North Ave. and geared up. It was nice to have a place to dress and keep my stuff instead of stashing it under a bush as I was doing all summer on my runs in Chicago!

In this half-marathon program, there are six different training schedules handed out to the runners depending on where you are in your training at the time of sign up. The schedules start with lower mileage build-up with the run/walkers and work all the way up to the "yellow" group (me) who, to my surprise, consists of mostly ex and current marathoners. Of course we get the huge long runs right off the bat!

Everyone then lines up to whatever pace you'd like to run for that day and off you go! Most of the runners have never trained in cold weather before, and most are just beginning their training. It was very cool to meet and talk to so many different people of all running abilities. I can't wait for the next group run on Wednesday.

I will say one thing, though. Running with a pace leader feels MUCH faster than when going solo. Even though I picked an easy 9:30 pace to start out with, it felt like 8:30! I guess when running solo you can back off when you need to. If you do it here, you lose your pace group and you're on your own. This is good in that it will discipline me to keep my pace throughout my runs to reach my goal finish times. Next weekend I'll to 9:00 pace, and go faster from there.

This coming Monday I'll be starting up my weight and core training again. I traditionally start up with weights in the winter since my mileage lower. Weights were just taking too much of my energy when I was training for Chicago. It will be nice having my gym only 5 minutes from my house!

And so with that I will leave you with the Funniest Treadmill Videos of All Time courtesy of our friends over at Running is Funny!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My spring marathon list

I've narrowed down my choices for a spring marathon to only four. All of them except San Diego are within driving distance, which I prefer to do simply because I love to drive when I travel.

This will be the first of two full marathons I'd like to run in 2009- one of them being Chicago again in October.

Here is my list in order of priority:

Apr. 19: Go! St. Louis Marathon, St. Louis, MO.
May 3: Flying Pig Marathon, Cincinnati, OH.
May 17: Rockford Marathon, Rockford, IL.
May 31: Rock N' Roll Marathon, San Diego, CA.

As of right now, I'm leaning towards Missouri. A big part of this is because I'm familiar with the area and the reviews on are pretty positive. It's also the closest to the end of my winter training schedule.

I missed running the Rockford half-marathon I had planned last year, and that is why it's on my list. The Rock N' Roll marathon sounds hella fun and, well, it's in California!

Hopefully I'll get one line up by next week.

P.S. Shhhh.... My cap of only doing two marathons in 2009 is not set in stone :)

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Warriors in the Sun

Chicago Endurance Sports

I've decided to join up with Chicago Endurance Sports and their 13 week half-marathon Winter Warriors winter training program to keep up my running through the long and dreary winter months!

I absolutely love running in winter. I ran through most of the '07/'08 winter months to get back in running shape after starting up in June of last year. The only problem with running during winter is that it can get really lonely out there. Chicago Endurance Sports is known for their wonderful training programs and experienced coaches, so it will be nice to join up with 500 other psycho's running during the coldest months of the year in Chicago!

Winter Run

My training leading up to the marathon has mostly been a solo effort. Although I've run with groups before, this is the first time I'll have access to top-notch coaches and experienced runners to further help me in my training. I'm super, super excited!

That being said, I've decided to run the Inaugural Melbourne & Beaches Half-Marathon on Feb. 8, 2009 in sunny Melbourne, Florida. Melbourne is about 50 miles south east of Orlando, and within spit shot of Cape Canaveral. How cool is that?

How about these finishers medals? Awesome.

It will be great to escape to sunny Florida to run this race after all of the hard work is done.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Post-Chicago Marathon thoughts

I'm finally starting to get my legs back after Sunday's race. They were stiff as a board the couple of days after, but I'm mostly unscathed. Remember the left calf pain I was whining about before the race? Well, I've managed to turn it into ground beef now, so it will take a little time to rehab it back into shape. No real harm done, I hope.

I'm still on a little bit of a high after finishing that 26.2 mile monster. Despite the major malfunction I had after mile 18, I'm very happy with the result. I. can't. begin. to describe how magical the moment was when that medal went around my neck after crossing the finish line. As I mentioned in my previous race report, I just held it tightly in my hand for quite a while afterwards. I now understand how addicting that feeling can be. I am hooked.

You see, in the running world there are these things we call "PR's" or "PB's" (Personal Records or Personal Bests). And there are these numbers attached to them indicating your finish times. These are meant to be broken. So the 4:54:38 time I have in the marathon, will soon fall. This is my new goal.

One thing is certain, I will be back to run Chicago in 2009. I have another crazy idea of taking on a 2nd marathon sometime next year, along with a couple of half's. I haven't decided on the races yet, but I should have a final list soon.

There is a quote I saw somewhere on the Internets that will be my mantra from this day forward:

"There will be a day when I can no longer do this. Today is not that day."

I like that.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Chicago Marathon race report- worth the pain

Chicago Marathon 2008 medal

Race: Chicago Marathon
Distance: 26.2
Official time: 4:54:38

I've read that it isn't only the distance of the marathon that provides the challenge, but it's how you deal with the unexpected that can make or break your run. This proved so true on Sunday.

This is the biggest running event I have ever experienced! Standing and waiting to go in that sea of people was simply incredible- jaw dropping in fact. It took me nearly 20 minutes to cross the start line, as I ended up somewhere around the 5:00 hour pace group, but ended up working myself up to the 4:30's.

After crossing the Start, my GPS was rendered useless right from the beginning after running under the first bridge. The only thing useful on it was the timer; the mile and pace counters never recovered. All I had left was my Pace Tat, which was a huge help:

Pace Tate - 4:00 hour pace

It was hot, folks. Really hot. I believe the recorded high was 85. I knew the heat was coming, so I made the proper adjustments, scaling back my pace and not starting out to quick.

I stayed with the 4:30 pace group for a good 9 miles until I was comfortable enough to pull slightly ahead of them, just keeping them within ear shot. I walked through the early water stations for about a minute until the pace group caught up with me, and then I would continue running.

I reached the half way point in 2 hours 8 minutes- just 7 minutes behind my official half-marathon mark. I'd already exhausted my hydration bottles by this point, so I was depending on the stations to keep me hydrated the rest of the way.

I think I may have depended on my Garmin GPS too much in my training. It was by that clock that I would take my gels and liquids during long runs. Since my GPS was way off the mark, I was now just guessing and counting miles as to when I needed to take my gels- 5, 10, 15, 20. In the middle miles, I was still taking water with my Gatorade for fear of stomach cramps. This mix may have negated the sodium intake that I badly needed later in the race.

I was in awe at all of the different sights, the amazing crowds, and the diverse group of runners. There were people here from all over the world. I took it all in.

The first half went really well. I was feeling wonderful. It was extremely difficult to stay at a steady pace with so many runners around. I would veer to the left to find a clear shot along the curb and gently tap people on the arm if they got a little too close for comfort- it was just that packed.

Then, the inevitable happened.

I saw the Event Alert level go to red around the 15 mile marker as it felt way over 80 degrees now. I started to see runners dropping off to the side one by one. I came up to a water stop just before mile 17 and saw a wall of runners just slow down in front of me to get water. I came to a dead stop to avoid bumping into people and my quads just locked up. I couldn't believe it.

The cramps were intense. I grabbed some Gatorade and took down another gel. By this point, I was in pain. I just continued to walk forward to shake it off and regroup. I just couldn't believe what was happening. I knew that if I stopped, I could not continue. At times I just wanted to sit and let it go. This was not happening. Not today.

So I would run, and run, until I couldn't run anymore, and then I would walk for a couple of minutes to gather myself up. After a while it got a bit easier as I got more fluids and bananas in me. This continues for another 5 or 6 miles until mile 25.

I was close now. Up to this point I was picking a marker ahead of me and running to it, whether it be a light post, tree, or the mile marker. Once I got there, I'd have to shake off the cramping for a few seconds and do the same thing.

Near the end, coming up to Roosevelt and the finish, I ran. I saw my family and it pushed me to go faster. I fought through everything I was going through and made it. Finally.

I put my arms up at the finish. And as the medal went around my neck, I clutched it hard and didn't let go. I sobbed like a little kid and didn't care. I had made it.

I had just finished my first marathon.

So that's it! 4:54 wasn't the time I wanted, but near the end, I had set my goal to finish in under five hours, which I accomplished. I fought hard and it made finishing my first ever marathon all that more satisfying.

I absolutely loved every minute of it and I WILL be back again.

Thank you to everyone for your wonderful support. I will not soon forget it.

My family and me:

Family - Chicago Marathon 2008

Lindsay and Erin- thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming out to support me. I hope you have been inspired to try it next year!:

Lindsay and Erin - runners and fans!

See the rest of the photos on my Flickr page.

Read my Twitter pal Alex's race report here (you did great!)

Check out Lindsay's Race report as a spectator here.

Congrats to all of the finishers!!!


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Proud owner of a Chicago Marathon finishers medal

Proud owner of a Chicago Marathon finishers medal
Originally uploaded by automatic_man2

Unofficial finish time around 4:45.

Loved every minute of it,as difficult and painful as it was in the heat.

Full report soon...


Sent with a Sprint Palm Centro Smartphone

Saturday, October 11, 2008

See you on the flip side of 26.2, my friends

Well, this will officially be my last post before the Big Day.

I think life will be different after the marathon- it pretty much already is. God willing, I will finish and would have experienced the most incredible moment of my life, I think.

My mind is at peace. My soul is inspired.

I have rediscovered my love for running, and I'm in the best shape of my life. I'm a distance runner dammit, and I freakin' love it. This is my life now.

I'm leaving it in the hands of God now. I'm still being bothered by a slight pain in my left calf, but I can run through it. I'm not too concerned with the heat, as I've trained in much hotter weather than this. Still, I don't know what to expect, but I'm going to do my best.

The journey has been especially difficult. Not only in a physical sense, but emotionally. Yes, there have been times when I wanted to stop; times that I thought I could not continue. But in those moments, I would take a look back at my life to see the good times, and the bad. There are many things I succeeded in, and many more where I failed.

I will try not to fail this time.

Thank you to all of the wonderful friends and family who have read this blog and followed me on my journey. I have met some incredible people- many who I don't know face to face- but I still hold you close to my heart- you know who you are.

To list these names will take a million posts. So I will say this:

Whether you know it or not, you are my inspiration. I am grateful for you to be a part of my life. Whether you live right next door, or half way across this world, thank you for sharing this moment with me.

-To all of my new Twitter runner friends- You are all an incredible bunch and your wonderful words of encouragement through all of this have helped in so many different ways. For this, I am grateful.

You all will be in my thoughts through this journey.

It's going to be quite a ride.

I am ready.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

My marathon suit for the day

Marathon Wear

(click to open)

This will be my marathon suit.

All of my wear has been tried and tested. Everything in the photo has logged hundreds of miles and I trust them so!

I had mixed feelings about putting my name on my top, but hearing your name shouted at you from the crowd gives you a nice little boost. So, what the hell?! This is my first marathon and I'm going to enjoy it!

Clicking on the photo will take you to my Flickr page. The photo contains mouse over's to each piece of wear.

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It's all or nothing!

Training Hazzards

Finishing up a five mile run outdoors in my winter running gear in near 70F temperatures. Comfy? No... Necessary? Probably yes, considering the forecast high of near 80 for Sunday.

I just finished up my breakfast: Five pancakes, 3 scrambled eggs with 3 slices of smoked ham, tall glass of orange juice, and a bowl of mixed fruit. Last night I had a sirloin steak, baked potato with mixed vegetables, and a beer. This has been the norm the past week or so (actually all summer!) and the funny thing is my pants from last year still fit me :-)

The past couple of runs this week, I've grown more concerned about the increasing pain in my left calf muscle. It probably sprung up after this run, but lay dormant until now. All I can do now is ice it and rest it as much as possible. It doesn't hamper my pace at all... it's just there, and it bugs me.

There's no turning back now. Pain or no pain, I'm going to run through it. I'll have plenty of time after Sunday to rest and rehab it.

It's all or nothing now.

And many thanks to those of you wishing me well!

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

The heat is on!

Chicago Marathon weather- warmer!

Before I begin: Found this very cool interactive map of the marathon course- complete with photos! Check it out here.

What do you know? The Chicago Marathon organizers have upgraded their Event Alert System warning level to "Yellow/Moderate" which indicates "Less-than-ideal" conditions for runners the day of the marathon. With temps already near 80, the game changes.

I've dropped down my expectations a bit from finishing in four hours to just... finishing. Fortunately, I've trained in some ridiculously warm weather this summer, so I know what to expect. I don't expect holding a 9 minute-per-mile pace the whole way, rather I'm going to set an easy pace early, take my fluids, and go on feel the latter half of the race.

I'm digging out my winter running gear for my two runs today and Friday, and I am going to run with a couple of layers on in the middle of the day to simulate running in the heat for Sunday. This means thermal running tights (my butt looks good in them too), and my thermal shirt with another long sleeve or jacket above that and some gloves.

For now, I'm enjoying a couple of days off before the weekend, and then hoping for two days to recover after!

...and probably more blogging because this taper is killing me slowly :-)

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Do I have to wait four more days?

Four more days until the marathon and I'm practically jumping out of my skin. I want to do this thing TODAY. I ran a wonderful three miles on the treadmill last night after not doing anything since the eight on Saturday. I could of gone forever.

My sleep patterns are still pretty staggered as of late. Last night, I had a dream that I was running a race dressed as a largemouth bass. Now I don't know what running around as a freshwater fish really means, but I know they can indicate good luck! I am a Pisces after all...

The back of my right knee is still a little sore, and the calf on my left leg feels as though it has a huge knot in it. I've been icing and massaging both areas daily and it has helped. Actually, this was the same soreness I battled the week before my successful 20 miler, so I have high hopes I'll heal it up with the same care.

Until next time!

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

This can change everything!

Chicago Marathon Weather Forecast

If this weather forecast holds, it can change a whole 'lotta things. From what to wear, hydration, pace... oh man... this is getting interesting.

They say you should expect your body to feel 20 degrees warmer than the outside air when you run, so this should put the actual "real feel" temperature around 97F. Great!

Here's hoping my training in the hot summer sun will come in handy. Hopefully my body will know what to do.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Six more restless nights

It's Monday now. Six days from now I'll be lining up with 45,000 other runners for the Chicago Marathon.

I think I had my first case of a restless night in quite a few months last night. I remember waking up and looking at the clock around 11:45pm and again around 12:30am. I'm not sure what I was worried about, but I was restless nonetheless. I did go to sleep at a decent time, so I'm not really tired this morning.

I suppose now that I've brought the mileage down in my runs, I'm not going to sleep like the dead (tired) as I've been doing almost all summer. Is this normal? Whatever the case may be, I'm turning in almost an hour or more earlier than normal this week.

My appetite has also been pretty rampant as usual. I had this big plan to visit some different restaurants this week to fuel up for Sunday, but I think I'm sticking to what I know. The running books say not to try anything different the one to two weeks before the marathon for fear of falling ill or getting injured in some way. So I'll look back at what I did before my two 20 mile runs and go with that.

This is my last week of tapering, so my mileage is pretty slim:

Mon: Rest
Tues: 3 miles
Wed: Rest
Thur: 5 miles
Fri: 2 miles
Sat: Rest
Sun: Race!

I've been dealing with some tightness behind my right knee, but I think I can lick it come Sunday.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Counting down the days

What a chilly morning to start my 8 mile run today. My guess is that this is what it's going to feel like eight days from now. Friends around me and on Twitter have been keeping me up to date on the weather forecast for Oct. 12. It's been somewhat of a mixed bag. Whatever it winds up to be, I think I'm going to have a great time.

Fifteen months.

Has it been that long since the thought of running this thing crossed my mind?

Fifteen months. Wow.

Fifteen months of grueling work to condition my body to run 26.2 miles. My bones have ached, my muscles are sore, and my body is tired. Fifteen months ago I was feeling crummy- physically and emotionally. I hadn't run in over 25 years and my body was screaming to get out of that damn computer chair and DO something. So I ran... I didn't get very far on the first try, but it was a step.

It's a lifestyle now. I've thought a lot about what I'm going to do come October 13. I know I won't run big miles for two to three weeks after. I definitely want to more races. And I'm surely not ruling out another marathon should this one go well.

We'll see. Every bit of this experience is so new to me that I'm just enjoying taking it all in.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Jesse's guide to spectating at the 2008 Chicago Marathon

On the request of a few friends who are looking at coming down to cheer on the runners at the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 12, I've put together this quick guide taken from my personal experience spectating at the event last year.

By no means is this an expert guide, but a collection of tips. You can visit the official Chicago Marathon website for an official Spectator Guide here.

Ok, now that I have that out of the way. Here we go...

First, take a minute to download the PDF of the marathon course. I'll be using this as a guide.

Got it? Ok...

I will have my cell phone on me all day. Email me for the phone #.

My bib #
Coming soon... what I'll wear...

Tip of the day: Make sure your runner see's you. Be sure to bring the most obnoxious balloon or sign you can find and stand out!

Runner Tracking: The Chicago Marathon has a runner tracking service that will send text and/or email messages to your phone in real time as the runners cross certain parts of the course- 6 miles, halfway (13.1 miles), 18 miles, and finish. The service is free and is available here. This is a nice way of knowing where runners are during the race.

Getting there:
I recommend taking public transportation if possible unless you plan on getting there before 6:30 a.m. There will be LOTS of people downtown. I recommend taking the earliest train out if possible. The start time for the marathon is 8 a.m. CDT

Several Metra train lines will be running on a special schedule the day of the event to make sure you see your runners off. Visit this link for information.

Travel light: Forget bringing chairs. I did this last year and had to abandon it. A blanket will do if you want to hang around in Grant Park and enjoy the festivities. Dress comfortably and for the weather. You'll probably be doing a lot of walking.

The Start: The start line is on Columbus drive in Grant Park between Jackson and Monroe. Trying to see a runner off here is next to impossible. It's kind of like trying to find a needle in a haystack (think 45,000 registered runners). Walking through the crowds here is also difficult. I recommend finding a spot between miles 1 and 3 on State st., Jackson, or Lasalle st. (see map).

The Start- where I'll be:
If you'd like to try and find me, look for the Pace signs. These signs are lined up along the start line labeled with the finish times. I will be near the 4:00 hour pace group (9 minutes per mile) in the "Open Corral". I like the left side (west side of street). Unless I know where you are, don't count on me looking for you. I may be too busy getting warmed up or puking my nervous guts out :-)

Staying "close to home": If you don't want to stray too far from Grant Park and the train station, the following mile markers are in the downtown area: Start, 2-3, 13, 14, 16, 26, and Finish. Mile markers 17 and up are south of downtown. Use the official Spectator Guide for information on getting to these areas should you want to venture that way.

The Half-Way point: Mile 13 is the half-way point near the intersections of Franklin and Adams, just east of the river (see map). This is a popular spot, so you'll have to hunt around for a good view. Watch your Runner Tracker as I approach this point. You should see me here close to 2 hours after the start around 10 a.m. (god willing!) I like the left side of the street. WAVE AND SCREAM LOUD!

Miles 16 and up: After mile 17, the course goes into the southern 'burbs of the city and will be hard to get to if you walk. See the official Spectator Guide for EL and bus information on how to get to these spots. For me, this will be a lonely journey, and I'll be gone for another two hours until the finish. It's a nice time to get some breakfast or stick around to watch the rest of the field.

Most of the McDonald's restaurants in the area will have Runner Update Centers where marathon staff will provide updates on where the runners are on the course. Your Runner Tracker works too.

Mile 18 to 20: Find me here between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. or 3 1/2 hours after the start. This is the furthest I've run in training. Anything after mile 20 is in the hands of the man upstairs! Prayers are welcome :-)

The Finish: Unless you park yourself at the finish line early and stay there all day, forget about trying to get a good view. There are paid seats here and the crowds get really big. The best view will be on Roosevelt, which is the street just before the turn to the finish. It is the highest hill on the course, and your SCREAMS will give the runners encouragement!! Get there early (at least an hour before noon) as only the north side of the street is accessible- don't worry, there is lots of room. SCREAM LOUD!!!

When it's over: If you head over to where the runners exit the corrals, be prepared for lots of people. If you cannot find me, the Runners Reunite area is located in Grant Park's Butler Field, just northeast of the finish on Columbus Dr. and Jackson Blvd. There will be alphabetically posted signs. Go to the M's and wait here. Otherwise, find the CARA tent (Chicago Area Runners Association). I will go there to get my gear first. Ask around if you can't find it. Call my cell as a last resort, or go to Buckingham Fountain.

Even if you don't go to see anyone in particular, the entire area is full of energy, and the inspiration you will get from seeing the runners finish 26.2 miles will be with you for days to come.

And perhaps... even inspire you to run next year :-)

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

This one's for you, Grandma

I said goodbye to my grandmother yesterday.

She passed away unexpectedly, but peacefully, on Friday, Sept. 26.

She was an angel on earth, who has finally found her way home. A woman who would give and give, and never accepted anything in return.

For me, it has been difficult.

Most memories of my grandmother are from when I was young. She took my family into her home through the most difficult of times. She would take care of me and my younger sisters when we came home from school, while my mother would work to make life better for us.

It was her home that I spent most of my childhood growing up in. In this home, I was always surrounded by family that taught me the values I now carry with me as a man. I remember the loving hugs and kisses that only a grandma can give to her beloved grandchildren.

So as I ran my 5 miles yesterday, the memories of her were still fresh in my mind. After only 2 miles, I could go no further. I broke down. And as I stood there and looked up into the heavens, I remembered the words the pastor said at her memorial service earlier in the day: That no matter what we do now, she will be looking down on us, making sure we are doing good. And scold us when we are not, just as she did in life.

So I bowed my head, put one foot in front of the other, and continued forward.

As I turned west along my running route, I saw the most beautiful sunset. I closed my eyes, lifted my arms, and felt as though my spirit was being lifted. My run felt effortless, and my conscious was clear.

It was the most difficult run of all. But in this very moment, I felt her presence beside God. It made me happy, and gave me the will and the strength to carry on.

For this, I am grateful.

Thank you, grandmother, for blessing us with your time here on earth.

You will always be in my heart.

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